We face incredible challenges for decarbonizing our economy and raising the standard of living for all members of our society at the same time. Historical energy efficiency efforts have been effective in making small steps, but they fall far short of the massive changes we need to make, and they completely miss helping communities of disadvantage (e.g. low-income, African American, Hispanic American, Native American and tribal nations, etc). Business as usual efforts do not take the time to connect with and understand the challenges of these historical underinvested communities and therefore have not been effective at helping these communities. The Biden Harris Administration has set ambitious goals for decarbonization of our economy that include a requirement that 40% of efforts support energy and environmental justice communities. If we are to meet our decarbonization goals, it is imperative that we change our approach to research, development, and deployment of new technologies. The Department of Energy has set energy justice as a priority and is working with the national laboratories to change our approaches. This paper starts with definitions of what we mean by energy and environmental justice and how they apply to building technologies and deployment efforts. We provide several examples of how historical efforts have succeeded and how they have failed to account for challenges of communities of disadvantage. We identify market and technology barriers to decarbonization and energy efficiency for specific technologies and how these barriers are exacerbated for disadvantaged communities. From these examples, we propose a new framework for integrating energy and environmental justice into all aspects of technology development, deployment, and policy efforts within the building energy sector.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages49
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5500-83173


  • building energy science
  • building envelope
  • buildings
  • commercial buildings
  • community
  • decarbonization
  • deferred maintenance
  • demonstration
  • deployment
  • development
  • disadvantaged communities
  • disinvestment
  • energy
  • energy burden
  • energy insecurity
  • energy justice
  • environmental justice
  • equity
  • HVAC
  • inequities
  • marginalized communities
  • RDD&D
  • redlining
  • research
  • residential buildings
  • underserved communities


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